Is there any phrase more tired than “Blondes have more fun”? My personal heroes (Gloria Estefan, JLo and Michelle Obama, obviously) prove that brunettes can totally keep up with our fair-haired BFFs… unless it’s at the hair salon. As a dark-haired lady — my hair is a color I like to call I-promise-it’s-dark-brown-not-black — I’ve pined after many a set of mermaid, beta fish and opal tresses. And while I’ve always dreamed of joining ranks with the pastel gals, I’ve been too afraid to subject my hair to harsh bleaches and repeat touchups. So when I learned about a new dye technique that promised to deliver magical mermaid hair to dark-haired ladies like me, I had to investigate.
“Oil slick” hair is the crazy-colorful new hair trend dreamed up by celebrity stylist Aura Friedman of the Sally Hershberger Salon. The iridescent tone, which also goes by the name “duck feather,” layers bright purples, lush greens and bold blues to create the look of gasoline on the ground after a wild storm. Plus, because you don’t have to drastically lighten your locks, it’s healthier for your hair too.
I was intrigued, but a little concerned about the commitment. Aside from a tiny streak of bleach (the result of being stuck indoors for too long after Hurricane Sandy), I’ve never dyed my hair.
I turned to Barrow Salon in San Francisco for the job. Helmed by celeb hairstylist Michelle Snyder (she’s sheared A-listers including Zooey Deschanel, Sienna Miller and Zoe Kravitz), the salon is on the pulse of what’s new and next.
Color genius Shelly Cross was in charge of my hair makeover. One peek at her beautiful blue-gray locks, and I knew I was in good hands. She got right to work, starting me off with foiled layers of two types of bleach: balayage and regular bleach. Shelly explained that since the balayage bleach is slower at stripping color than regular bleach, adding both types would ensure good dimension in the colors. This dimension would allow some spots to pop with color and others to be more subtle.
After washing out the bleach, Shelly was ready to add in the dyes. Her oil-slick strategy was all about overlaying colors. She told me, “Overlaying purple and green, and adding the blue here and there, will give your hair that metallic feel. When you overlay, the colors create that really iridescent feeling, giving it that oil slick look.” Though Shelly says there’s no limit to the colors and tones you can work into your oil slick ‘do, she felt the trio of purple, blue and green complement each other really well and worked well with my skin tone.
After washing out the dye, it was time for the unveiling. You could hardly see any of the colors while my hair was wet, but Shelly promised they’d be there. As Shelly worked her blowdryer magic, the bright colors start to emerge. I’m pretty sure I gasped when I saw my hair, and then I went silent because I couldn’t stop smiling. It was — and is — truly the hair of my dreams.
Thanks to the color layering and several dimensions of bleach, my hair was both wild and subtle, all at the same time. With just a casual hair flip, I could tease a few glimpses of teal or purple, but since the colors were limited to near the front of my hair, it wasn’t a full-on assault of color. Shelly said that the maintenance for oil slick hair is easier than pastel hair, since pastel tones fall out of hair so quickly. The only potential downside is that when you’re touching up your oil slick strands, the color blending can pick up randomly. That means every appointment will result in a slightly new color blend.
Having magical-colored hair is everything I thought it would be and more. I now get daily compliments from my coworkers about my hair, and I find myself dreaming of ways to show it off. Let’s just say I see a lot of fancy braids in my future.
I also recently acquired a beautiful skateboard and a pair of flashy sneaker wedges, so as my friends tell me, I’ve finally reached cool teen status. Sure, it’s about 10 years too late, but I’ll take it!
Brunettes! Would you try oil slick hair? Let us know in the comments below!
Photography: Brittany Griffin
Colorist: Shelly Cross
Salon: Barrow Salon, 256 Sutter St #4, San Francisco, CA 94108